This month on Jeremy’s Drink of the Month, I am giddy. In full disclosure, Dry 85 on Main Street is one of my favorite bars in the whole world. I can’t quite describe why, but perhaps it has something to do with their highly curated bourbon list. No, that’s not it… maybe it’s the top-notch craft beer rotation? I am, unfortunately, a total beer snob, but no, that’s not why I love Dry 85. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’ll come to me by the end of the blog…
First, let me tell you about the impeccable Smoking Kiss cocktail at Dry 85. This cocktail is not on Dry 85’s cocktail menu. In fact, if you want to try The Smoking Kiss after reading this blog, you’ll have to ask for it by name, and tell them Jeremy sent you. The Smoking Kiss comes from the mind of Billy Maddox, bourbon-slinger extraordinaire at Dry 85. Here’s the rundown:
The Smoking Kiss:
- Laphroaig 16 yr. glass rinse - 1 oz. High West Campfire Whiskey - 1 oz. Rittenhouse Rye - 1 oz. sweet vermouth - ¼ oz. house honey syrup - 2 dashes chocolate mole bitters - 2 drops house dry tobacco tincture in Rittenhouse Rye - Orange peel to garnish
The smoking kiss takes the classic Old Fashioned, and turns it into a smoky winter cocktail the likes of which Ron Swanson would be proud. This cocktail is as creative as you're bound to find in the world of mixology and yet, it hasn’t forgotten the essence of why we drink bourbon in the first place. The late, great, Southern author Walker Percy, in his quintessential essay on bourbon, “Bourbon, Neat,” lays out perfectly the essence of this most American of liquors:
“The joy of bourbon drinking is not the pharmacological effect of the C2H5OH on the cortex but rather the instant of the whiskey being knocked back and the little explosion of Kentucky U.S.A. sunshine in the cavity of the nasopharynx and the hot bosky bite of Tennessee summertime—aesthetic considerations to which the effect of the alcohol is, if not dispensable, at least secondary.”
Yes, there is something pleasurable about discovering new craft cocktails that use ingredients you’ve never heard of, somehow expertly balanced, and “courageous” in the risk found therein. I get it, and I love it. I write a blog about craft cocktails, after all. However, when “high mixology” forgets its roots, forgets our Prohibition-era, dirt-kicking, outlaw roots within American drink history, our bars forget the very best thing about drinking. It’s not getting drunk. It’s not even connoisseurship. The best thing about a great drink is that aesthetic pleasure of leaving aside the malaise of modernity, even for a moment, and experiencing the “kick” that happens just as well in our souls as on our tongues. The Smoking Kiss accomplishes nothing less than this.
The Smoking Kiss contains smoke and earth, campfire whiskey and tobacco rye tincture. This is a proper high mixology cocktail, but it hasn’t forgotten why we are here at the bar in the first place. This is a drink for both the workingman and the philosopher.
You know what, that balance is exactly why I love Dry 85 so much. It’s unpretentious, and yet they are creative artists at work. Owners Brian and Lisa Bolter give their bartenders plenty of room to experiment, however, you’ll never see those same craftsmen wearing anything more fancy than t-shirts and baseball caps. Drop by sometime, experience a brief reprieve from your frantic modern life, say hey to Billy, and order a Smoking Kiss. As Walker Percy writes:
“Anybody who monkeys around with gin and egg white deserves what he gets. I should have stuck with bourbon and have from that day to this.”
Photos courtesy of Jeremy Olsen